Monday, September 29, 2008

Basilico



Basilico at The Regent Singapore is named after basil, a humble perennial herb that is featured prominently in Italian cuisine. This two month old Italian restaurant, which took over the now defunct Capers, is helmed by 3 Italians - Executive Chef Claudio Rossi, Restaurant Chef Angelo Ciccone and Pizza Chef Carmine Esposito, who hail from northern and southern Italy.





Interior & Menu

Located on the second level of this prestigious Four Seasons hotel, Basilico's interior is designed by renowned Japanese architect Yasuhiro Koichi and dazzles with its centrepiece crystal chandelier and circular open space dining concept which houses three open kitchens - antipasto, the hot kitchen and pasticceria (desserts). For those who wish to dine al fresco, there is the option of dining by the pool.



Pizza Chef Carmine Esposito & Restaurant Chef Angelo Ciccone



Complimentary Bread

I thought that the focaccia was quite decent, just a tad cold when served, which made it a little dry and hard on the outside. But I did like the slightly chewy texture it carried and of course the interesting repertoire of dips that came alongside, with the most notable one being mascarpone cheese, which can usually be found in tiramisu. The sheets of cheese crackers came across as rather average though.



Cacciucco di Pesce (Fresh Seafood in Lobster and Tomato Stew)

The lobster and tomato stew was rich in flavours yet did not overwhelm, making for a nice savoury soup with a tinge of spice. The servings of scallops, prawns and squid cubes were relatively generous as a whole, which was definitely a step in the right direction.



Focaccia Pita

I couldn't quite catch the name of this dish but it is, beyond a doubt, the shining star of the evening. Made with focaccia and stuffed with black truffle and mascarpone cheese, it looked anything but asthetically pleasing. However, the charmer came in the form of its considerably thin crust that had a nice chewy texture to it. Throw in a nice and light creamily cheesy undertone sans the nausea and you get an excellent pita dish.



Pizza Prosciutto

To be very honest, I thought the pizza was quite good but certainly not to the extent of outstanding. Granted, the crust was thin and baked to a crisp golden brown with the parma ham lightly smokey. But the pizza did seem a little bland overall. There was a harmonious cohesion amongst the ingredients but that failed to ignite any sparks (aka boring).



Risotto alla Pugliese

The risotto didn't quite do it for me as the arborio rice came across as a tad too hard for my liking. If its any consolation, the servings of diced lobster, prawn, scallop and asparagus were generous to say the least. I do wonder about the green foam atop though.



Wagyu Beef

Grilled to medium rare as per my request, the wagyu failed to impress. That's not to say it wasn't any good, just that I'm rather picky when it comes to steak. The beef carried an oily aftertaste that was quite prominent and invoked nausea. The steak sauce that came alongside wasn't really effective in masking the oily taste even though it carried a noticable amount of alcohol. On the upside, this was a quality piece of meat, which was naturally sweet and succulent with a proportionate amount of fats.



Semifreddo al Torroncino

I thought that the almond parfait was quite good with a consistently smooth and creamy texture which had bits of almond in it. The stewed sour cherries below provided a much needed jolt to tingle my jaded senses.



Apple Tart with Marsala Cream

Personally I felt that the apple tart was rather normal as the crust was a bit too dry but lightly buttery. The apple slices were bland and the marsala cream provided the alcoholic content.



Fig Tart

I dislike figs but surprisingly the crust was different from that of the apple tart, coming across as moist and leaning a little towards crumble. Personally I prefered this crust over that of the apple tart.



Raspberry Panna Cotta

One of the more unusual panna cottas I've come across so far, Basilico's rendition tasted more like mousse with an almond jelly aftertaste. Certainly not what I would expect from a good panna cotta.



Groppino

The meal ended with a glass of groppino, which is essentially a lemon sorbet, champagne, mint and vodka concoction that is supposed to help you digest. I'm not sure it did the trick for me though.

All in all the meal was rather satisfying except for the desserts, which fell rather flat in my humble opinion. I'm not exactly sure how prices are like because the meal was complimentary, courtesy of HGW. I'm sure that in time, with some tweaks here and there, Basilico will be able to hold its own against the likes of other well know Italian restaurants like Senso, Garibaldi, Il Lido etc.



Likes: Nice place, mains were very decent
Dislikes: Desserts were forgettable

Final Verdict:

Ambience:8/10
Service:/10
Food:7/10 (8/10 for the focaccia pita)
Value for money:/10

Overall:7.5/10

Address: Level 2, The Regent Singapore

Contact: 6725 3232

Opening Hours:

Lunch: Noon - 2.30pm

Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.00pm

Brunch: Noon - 3.00pm (Sundays)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ah Chiang's Porridge



Heard quite a fair bit about Ah Chiang's porridge, which is situated amongst the conservation area of Tiong Bahru and boasts a rich history dating back to 1971. The various media appearances are seemingly testament to its honest to goodness bowls of porridge which are painstakingly cooked over a charcoal stove.



Occupying a corner unit, Ah Chiang's can take about 30 people or so and tables are on a first come first serve basis, very much like any mom and pop coffee shops around. On both occasions that I went, at 1230pm on a Saturday and 1030am on a Sunday, seats were readily available but I understand that long waits are to be expected especially in the morning.



The dry and uninspiring dough fritters


Intestine Porridge with Meatballs & Century Egg Porridge with Chicken

At $5.50, this was a rather expensive bowl of porridge. The focus was undoubtedly on the porridge, which came across as smooth with bits of grains and didn't seem too starchy. The quantity of ingredients were acceptable at best and if it wasn't for the extra meatballs, the intestines alone would have been a sorry sight. Not that the meatballs or intestines tasted fantastic anyways. I could also detect MSG in the porridge, but I guess that's rather common in porridge nowadays.
The bowl of century egg porridge cost slightly lesser, at $4.50 for a sprinkling of century egg and chicken slices. As with the previous dish, the porridge itself was the star while the century egg and chicken slices were merely average.

Honestly, I found the porridge quite decent overall, just that prices are a tad too steep.



Likes: Smooth porridge
Dislikes: Expensive and ingredients are average

Final Verdict:

Ambience:/10
Service:/10
Food:7/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6.5/10

Address: Blk 65 Tiong Poh Road #01-38

Contact: 6557 0084

Opening Hours: 7am-2pm, 6pm-12am (Alternate Mondays Off)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yella Fellas


This is going to be a very short entry as I don't usually write about snacks that I eat. Just happened to pass by this stall at Bugis Junction which was featured in the Straits Times sometime back about its fries so decided to give it a shot, especially since this is probably the only place in Singapore that sells poutine (to my limited knowledge).



Poutine

$4.90 gets you a medium size serving of thick cut fries with the skin still intact, covered in a sporadic layer of cream cheese and drizzled with beef gravy. I personally felt that the fries were too thickly cut, which resulted in some parts being overly hard while some parts were soft. The gravy wasn't hot enough( it was at room temperature!) to melt the cheese, unlike that of New York Fries, which pours hot/warm gravy over their cheese curds to melt them onto the fries for a absolutely delicious experience. I also thought that the salt content was a little too excessive as good fries, in my humble opinion, only require minimal salt.



Likes: Finally poutine in Singapore!
Dislikes: Poutine needs refining

Final Verdict:

Ambience:/10
Service:/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6.25/10

Address: #B1-K6 Bugis Junction

Contact: 9863 1404

Opening Hours: Daily: 11am - 10pm

Website: http://www.yellafellas.com.sg/index.html

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Peperoni Pizzeria



Was in the mood for some thin crust pizza so the glutton in me opted for Peperoni Pizzeria, which is owned and operated by fine dining chain Les Amis and boasts a never seen elsewhere in Singapore XXXL family size pizza, measuring 21 inches in diameter. Compare that with the 12-14 inches that is offered by other pizza joints and Peperoni easily takes the cake in terms of size.



Interior

Located in the upmarket and reclusive residential enclave of Greenwood Ave, Peperoni Pizzeria sits along a row of tiny shophouses that play host to various renowned F&B establishments such as Punggol Seafood, Lana, Greenwood Fish Market, just to name a few. The air conditioned area exudes a nice warmth through the use of pastel colours and various artworks by professional artists and school children alike. You can even follow the process of your pizza being made and then baked in the oven. There is also a small al fresco area behind which is reminiscent of a mini courtyard, complete with vines. If you need a pass time while waiting for your food or an aspiring artist, just ask for crayons and you can doodle on the paper tablecloths.



Note how much the ice water costs

The menu is just in jest and ice/warm water is served free of charge. So do not be afraid to ask for it or coerced into buying other drinks.




XXXL Pizza

If you order the large pizza (12 inches) and above, you can request to split your pizza into 2 totally different flavours, which allows for more variety. We had the Hawaii (tomato sauce, mozzarella, pineapple, cooked ham, bell peppers) and the Suprema (tomato sauce, mozzarella, shitake mushroom, chicken, sausage, onions and red chilli). The pizza crust was relatively thin but a tad too burnt along the edges. The base did seem a little too soggy from all the sauces as well. Ingredients didn't come across as plentiful but adequate nevertheless. Personally I thought that the Hawaii portion tasted better as it came across as more flavourful then that of the Suprema.



Creme Brulee

Ending our high carbohydrate meal on a sweet note was the creme brulee, which was quite good but certainly not the best I've had. Made from real vanilla beans, the pudding wasn't too sweet but the overly soft texture didn't exactly sit well with me. The sugar layer was thin and broke easily under pressure. Peperoni's rendition is comparable to the one at FRE(N)SH, just 1.5 times the size and double the price.



Bill

A lunch of gigantic proportions set the 2 of us back by about $55, which is still reasonable considering that the amount of food could have fed at least 3 people. In case you are wondering, no, we didn't finish the food. I surrendered at the halfway mark while my gf ate a quarter of it. The remaining quarter was doggy bagged. Service was slow and spotty and it was quite difficult to catch the wait staff's attention at times. They weren't rude or anything, probably just unattentive or not around.



Likes: Nice place to have a relaxing meal, pizzas are huge, food quality decent
Dislikes: Service needs to improve

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7/10
Service:6/10
Food:7/10
Value for money:7/10

Overall:6.75/10

Address: 6 Greenwood Ave, Hillcrest Park

Contact: 64656556

Opening Hours: 12pm - 12am (Last seating at 1030pm) daily. Closed on certain holidays. Call to enquire.

Website: http://www.lesamis.com.sg/webtop/index1.html

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Limon



Parkway Thai Restaurant's latest introduction to the culinary scene is one that fuses Thai and Spanish cuisine together - Limon, which started operations about a month ago in early August. I believe Limon is a portmanteau of the words lime and lemon, which was also used to market Sprite (the soft drink) a couple of decades ago.




Interior

Occupying the former premises of the restaurant turned food centre stall Cilantro along Purvis Street, Limon plays neighbour to more illustrious eateries like Garibaldi, Yhingthai Palace and Gunther's. The first floor of Limon spans out into the wine bar while the restaurant and private dining room sits on the second and third floor respectively. The restaurant's interior is somewhat muted but boasts a cosy sitting arrangement (about 20pax or so) complete with wooden flooring and large olden style post war architecture windows. Personally I liked the private room, which comes with a glass partition that overlooks part of the second floor and also the windows.



Limon's Special Nut Mix & Complimentary Bread

Honestly I thought that the mixture of peanuts, cashew nuts, pecan nuts and walnuts was rather interesting with lemongrass and chilli thrown into the concoction. It provided a nice twist to the usual boring nuts you get.
On the other hand, I found the complimentary bread way too hard and dry for my liking. And the accompanying dips and margarine didn't help, save for the tangy tomato dip.



Cream of Pumpkin & Tom Kha Guy

The cream of pumpkin wasn't your usual excessively sweet and coagulated version, coming across as mildly sweet without forcing the pumpkin taste down your throat.
Personally I prefered the Tom Kha Guy or the coconut base chicken soup, which excited the palates more with its variety of flavours. Mildly sweet yet sourish and creamy with bits of cut chilli padi to give it a light spice. Very much like robust tom yam soup without the spiciness. I appreciated the adequate slices of chicken and mushrooms as well.



Paella with Seafood, Spanish Sausage & Broad Beans

Paella is a Spanish rice dish which involves cooking spanish rice in a specialised pan called paella or paellera, which is round and shallow with splayed sides. I thought that this dish was quite good as the spanish rice was plump and short, absorbing in the sublime garlicky flavours yet didn't come across as too creamy or sticky like risotto. The spattering of fresh seafood definitely helped in enhancing the dish, making it the undisputed star of the day.



Lobster and King Prawns Phad Thai

I was envisioning a baby lobster flanked by 2 king prawns served on a bed of phad thai but woke up to the sad reality when this dish was served. I made out 2 small cubes of lobster playing second fiddle to a lone upright prawn, whose size didn't exactly befit that of a king. Small portions aside, the prawn and the lobster cubes were overly salty but the glass noodles were springy with a hint of tomato sauce and fell into the dry category, which I personally prefer. Could have done with more grounded nuts though.



Caramel Flan

This heart shape dessert came served with a piece of hard sugar, also carved out into a heart. The pudding reminded me of a more robust and rougher version of creme brulee. The egg taste did come across as a little overwhelming and there was a tinge of lemongrass in the sidelines. Interestingly, the sugar heart tasted like 麦芽糖 or Maltose, which brought back childhood memories.



Tom Banana with Pandanus Leaf and Coconut Sauce

Honestly this was the only dish that I didn't quite take to, mainly because of its soft and rather fibrous texture. The banana was boiled till it became limp but not too mashed up and it reminded me of boiled sweet potato. Sorry but this dessert just didn't do it for me.



Tea



Bill

All thanks to a 1 for 1 set lunch promotion that Limon is currently offering, the 2 of us chalked up only about $41 for a satisfying and rather enjoyable lunch. Service was decent and personally I thought that the iced water they served was rather interesting with the addition of rosemary. To conclude, I honestly don't see much of a fusion in Limon's dishes and those small pockets of fusion would probably be classified under conservative. However, having said that, I do think that Limon's dishes are of a certain quality and for $20/head (after 1 for 1 discount), its definitely a steal. Please note that the set lunch promotion is ongoing for an undefinite period of time and runs from Monday to Saturday.



Likes: Nice place, Above average quality of food
Dislikes: I forsee that the place will be quite noisy when full as it is rather small and enclosed.

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7/10
Food:7/10
Value for money:7.5/10 (Only with the 1 for 1 promotion)

Overall:7.25/10

Address: 7 Purvis Street

Contact: 63339004

Opening Hours: 1130am - Midnight. Lunch from 1130am - 3pm.

Website: www.limon.com.sg

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kopi Tiam Singapore Restaurant



Kopitiam literally translates into 咖啡店 or coffeeshop which is synonymous (to a certain extent) with affordable local food. However, this offering by Swissotel Singapore promises the best of local favourites at a premium price in an air conditioned environment coupled with good service.





Interior & Menu

Hidden in a corner on the second level of Fairmont, Kopitiam plays neighbour to Cafe Swiss. Decor is kept simple and uncluttered with green wooden top tables and mugs that are reminiscent of kopitiams in the old days. There's even a few push cart type stall fronts where chefs will prepare local favourites like popiah to mimic the days of old.



Popiah

This has got to be the most expensive popiah that I've eaten in Singapore, standing at $7++ a roll. Brimming with ingredients, shreds of slipper lobster inclusive, the popiah looked like it could burst anytime with its thin but hardly chewy and tasteless skin. Honestly, as a whole, the popiah was tasteless. Only the taste of chilli prevailed.



Tahu Telur

Honestly, tahu telur to me is mainly comfort food and Kopitiam's rendition reminded me of those you can get at food courts islandwide - average and not the least bit outstanding. The tofu was rather chunky and I found this dish a little too sweet for my liking. The only thing I thought was quite good was the egg, which was deep fried to a crisp.



Bak Kut Teh

I've always been a fan of bak kut teh, especially the Teochew variant, which this offering didn't fall under. $15.50 got me 5 medium sized ribs, a bowl of dough fritters and rice. The ribs were actually quite good, meaty and coming across as tender with a mild bite. The soup was a tad too sweet for my liking but definitely not as sweet as the one I had at Empire Cafe, probably due to the noticable absence of wolfberries. Did I mention that the dough fritters were crackling but didn't taste fresh?



Hainanese Chicken Rice

One of the most iconic dishes of Singapore and purportedly a signature of this place, the humble Hainanese chicken rice looked disproportionately small for $17. I'm pretty sure you can get the same quantity of chicken at a hawker centre for about $3-$4. That aside, the chicken was succulent and tender without being too fatty or salty. The rice was not too oily and fragrant but a tad undercooked. Definitely not as tasty as I had expected it to be. But then again, I guess you sacrifice taste when you cut down on the oil.



Bill

Without discount, the bill came up to a shocking $61.20, which is preposterous in my humble opinion. Street food, even in "high class" restaurants, really shouldn't cost an arm or a leg. Kopi Tiam Singapore Restaurant may be effective in showcasing Singapore's culturally diverse local food to tourists but it certainly doesn't strike a chord with me, not with the prices.



Likes: Nice quiet place to have lunch on a weekend
Dislikes: Pricey, Food average

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:5.5/10

Overall:6.5/10

Address: Level 2, Swissôtel The Stamford

Contact: 64316156

Opening Hours:

Breakfast: Daily - 7:30 am to 10:30 am

À la Carte: Monday to Friday - 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm

Saturday, Sunday & public holidays - 11:30 am to 11:00 pm

Closed: Monday to Friday - 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Website: http://www.fairmont.com/singapore/GuestServices/Restaurants/Kopi+Tiam.htm